Utah man crashes helicopter, killing passenger, after being ordered by judge not to fly

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SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn (ABC4) – A Utah man who was federally indicted for wire fraud and ordered by a federal judge not to fly, crashed a helicopter in Tennesee, killing his passenger.

On Dec. 22, Matthew Jones, 35, was ordered not to fly a helicopter — after admitting to using marijuana on Dec. 5 — when he and his attorney appeared before the U.S. District Court in Utah.

A week later on Dec. 29, Jones crashed a helicopter in Sevier County, Tennessee, killing his passenger, 37-year-old Julianna Wagner.

Wagner, who also was from Utah, is described in her obituary as, “A person you always wanted to be around, because she made everything brighter, instilled everything with more fun.”

Weather conditions were overcast, drizzly, and foggy when Jones and Wagner took off from the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport before the helicopter went down.

Jones — who is facing federal prosecution for falsely claiming he was a certified flight instructor in Utah —suffered injuries when the leased Robinson R-44 helicopter that he was flying crashed at about 2,000 feet near Sevier County.

Between May. 28, 2019, and Nov. 21, 2019, Jones was involved in a scheme to defraud and “obtain money by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, and omissions of material fact,” court records show.

Jones represented himself to be the owner and operator of Noctem Aviation and a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) in helicopters and fixed-winged aircraft.

Jones entered into a written agreement with a victim of the scheme, promising to give the victim’s son flight instructions to become a certified pilot. The victim then opened a joint account with Jones to pay for the flight instruction and certifications.

Instead of spending the money to fund the flight instruction, court documents state that Jones knowingly took money from the account and used the funds for his own personal benefit, including rent, ATM withdrawals, cell phones bills, and personal purchases.

From June 1, 2019, to June 15, 2019, Jones stole approximately close to $10,000 from the victim. Jones was indicted by a grand jury in October, court records show. The court case is ongoing.

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